SIMON Grayson is pleased to be welcoming Jermaine Beckford back into Preston’s promotion push after more than a month on the sidelines.
The striker, on loan from Bolton Wanderers, has not featured since the 1-1 draw with Yeovil on January 20.
An inner ear infection kept him out of action, the severity of it causing problems with his balance.
Beckford could be back on the bench at Oldham today, having got through several training sessions in the last couple of weeks.
PNE manager Grayson told the Evening Post: “Jermaine was doing well for us before he got the illness.
“He is a different type of striker to the others we have got and will give us another good option.
“When I look round at my bench there are some really good options now.
“I can change things when it is needed, whether we are winning a game, chasing a game or trying to stay in it.
“You sometimes get results from your bench and the more players we have available, the stronger we can be.”
After a slow start to his loan spell in terms of goals, it looked as though Beckford was starting to find his feet when he was hit by the ear infection.
He had scored three goals against Peterborough, Crewe and Leyton Orient.
When the 31-year-old was signed in November, Grayson had the intention of pairing him up with Joe Garner.
But with Beckford sat on the bench at Bristol City two days after joining, Garner limped off at half-time with what proved to be a serious shin injury which required corrective surgery.
Garner returned to action earlier this month during Beckford’s lay-off.
“The intention was to play Joe and Jermaine together,” said Grayson.
“We’ll see where we go with that one, see what system we play over the next few weeks.
“What I do know is that we have some good strikers who will score goals and get assists. Jermaine, Joe, Kevin Davies, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Callum Robinson and Andy Little will do those things.”
Having Beckford nearing fitness has allowed Grayson to loan Jordan Hugill to Tranmere for 28 days.
Hugill, 22, is rated highly at Deepdale but there is a recognition that he needs a run of games to help him regain match sharpness after a long absence with a knee injury.
Grayson said: “Our striking options were a factor in Jordan going to Tranmere.
“It is more the fact that he has worked so hard for three or four months to get back from injury but could have been facing a stop-start end to the season.
“Jordan could have been getting 10 minutes here and there from the bench, which might not have done him too much good.
“At Tranmere he will get a run of games, hopefully a few goals and then he can come back to us and maybe contribute towards the end of the season for us.”
North End’s main goal threat is likely to be shouldered by Garner despite the other options available.
Grayson thinks his leading scorer is still a notch or two below peak fitness and will only improve with games, the same applying to Callum Robinson who has recently overcome a hamstring strain.
“I think they are probably a little bit short of sharpness. We’re not talking 40% but maybe five to 10%,” said Grayson.
“We have to remember that Joe was out for a number of weeks. He got his two goals against Chesterfield and has contributed in other ways.
“Joe will get better with each game and he is hungry to score lots more goals.”